Carlton Reid chatted with American academic Dr. Tara Goddard and Australian Irene McAleese of See.Sense, the Northern Irish bicycle lighting and tech company disrupting the world of cycle use data collection.
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Carlton Reid 0:24
Welcome to Episode Six of Virtual Velo-city featuring interviews from the Velo-city conference held in Dublin in June 2019. I’m Carlton Reid, cutting straight over to myself from Dublin, introducing the show that originally went out to our Kickstarter backers only but now, thanks to the sponsorship from the Dutch Cycling Embassy, we are able to bring out to everybody. I’m here to let you know that this show was recorded on Thursday, June the 27th. And Laura, what have you been doing today?
Laura Laker 0:57
Yes, I’m Laura Laker. I talked to three amazing women from a group called women on wheels. So they were journalists Louise Williams, transport planner Giulia Grigoli and social scientist Aíne Tubridy. And yeah, they were were amazing.
Carlton Reid 1:16
So give us give us a brief overview of what they said.
Laura Laker 1:19
Women on wheels is a kind of listening project they were they realised that 27% I think of cyclists in Dublin are women. And they wanted to know why. So they set about, and they’re really interesting, because they’ve all got different experiences. They set about sort of talking to women, about what their experiences were and sort of unpacking some of the quite unconscious things that we do as women to keep ourselves safe every day on the roads and, and they’re interesting collaborations and comparisons with other fields. And yeah, it’s really fascinating chat.
Carlton Reid 1:49
And then we’ll have tonnes of fascinating stuff here isn’t that’s basically what we’re shooting fish in a barrel. Yeah, yeah. in
Dublin. Every second person we meet is just yet wonder we should have a microphone. Yeah, they’re in their face. Yeah. So when I read to them so many
Laura Laker 2:04
interesting ideas. Yeah, we brought them into all their ideas fall out. And then yeah, it’s been really really, really interesting.
Carlton Reid 2:11
You spoke to Chris Boardman and Chris Boardman won an award.
Laura Laker 2:14
Yeah, he won some sort of award he didn’t know is another one to stick on his wall. Yeah, I was in the performance centre, Boardman performance centre last week, I think it was. And he’s just got like a whole stairwell of like, awards and plaudits and I think he finds it a bit embarrassing, but um, yeah, and yet another award for for leadership in in transport,
Carlton Reid 2:35
cycling, transport planning from the Copenhagen Denmark cycling embassy. Okay, so we’ll run that audio probably tomorrow. That’s not today. But what just to update you with what’s on today’s show. So you’ve got Laura stuff there with women on wheels. And then you’ve got it’s a very women-centred show. Yeah. And so I spoke with American academic Tara Godard, she’s, no she’s not from Texas. She’s Portland, Oregon. But she
Portland. I think she was
originally California. That’s right. And then she went to Portland, which is a fantastic place. And we were talking about that. And then she went to Texas,
and she’s really and then
University. Yeah, I think so. Yeah. She’s a very important person. Yes. Across in America is fantastic that she’s here. And I also spoke, in fact, it was the same conversation. I grabbed them together. Because we were talking in the in the aisle, they were saying great things. I said, just hold that fire. Let’s just go and talk. So I was gonna interview them separately. And it was so good. They kind of sparked off each other. It was great. So I also spoke to Irene McAleese, that doesn’t sound very Australian. But she’s married to Philip McAleese. And she runs a company, which co found co founded a company with her husband called SeeSense. And they’ve got some fantastic stuff, which makes the Forbes article in fact today. So part of the interview as made up onto Forbes. And that company is very much disrupting the world of cycle use data collection. So there’s been an awful lot of information here about data collection. And I was speaking to will get his name wrong. But it Christopher, the transportation planner at Dublin, and he’s in the story. And I photographed him yesterday on the on the ride smiling away. And I thought I’ve got to go and speak to him. I’ve got a great photograph of him. And I want to talk to him, because he was also in the sense presentation that I was at for the new data collection. And he was just saying as as In fact, Tara Godard and both are in say in the in the interview, it is so important to measure cycling, we think why do you want to measure cycle it’s not that data is really important. But it’s it’s the beautiful phrase, which Tara used. And she said that she uses with her students, we treasure what we measure, and buses are measured. Cars are measured. Trains are measured fairies, and everything is measured. We know the time of all these things coming now we get them on our apps. We don’t know about bicycle. Yeah, it’s true. So we need to know about bicycles. That’s why measuring is so important. Yeah, really
Laura Laker 5:05
important. And also I did an article earlier this year about counters on bike lanes, and it’s super important because people say oh, nobody uses them. Actually. It shows that when you build stuff people, people will ride on it. And humanitarian point is interesting because cycle counters are not as good as the car counters because they are newer because like they’re less reliable ones in London break down quite a few of them breakdown. But yeah, yeah, we definitely need to measure stuff.
Carlton Reid 5:29
Which reminds me the guy from Strava came up to me after the Chris Boardman talk and in fact, I took him away so you could interview Chris, and I took him away to talk to him and he was telling me the same thing and he was saying this amazing percentage like 7% of the UK population now using Strava. It’s just this hugely percentage it might be higher than 7% but he’s just you know, saying you enormous amount of the data that strivers collecting for Strava Metro is people cycling to work.
Laura Laker 5:56
Yeah. satisfying logging your miles. I don’t know something about it. One year I did every single mile even if it was only kilometre, and then I thought it’s getting ridiculous. But it’s strangely faster potentially satisfying to know how far you’ve cycled every year.
Carlton Reid 6:09
I’m nodding and saying yesterday because I don’t
Laura Laker 6:12
I don’t really do it anymore. To be honest, I can’t be bothered, but it’s it’s useful. Definitely useful for urban planners.
Carlton Reid 6:17
So you can turn Strava off
Laura Laker 6:20
have to turn it on its whereas it was a bit of an experiment for me. But um, yeah, people do it. I mean, I noticed on my Strava feed, and people do it for literally, there’s an awful lot of tech,
Carlton Reid 6:29
which you don’t turn on. It’s just persistent. Yeah. And that’s what we’ve been talking about. And that’s partly what part today’s show is the persistent tech over and low power. IoT Internet of Things network. So let’s get into today’s show. So it is Thursday. Now on is this the second day? It’s the third. Thank you, Tara. It’s the third day this. This is a four day conference. That’s Yeah, crazy. But I’m here and now I’ll go to Tara first, because Tara was the one who gave me that the prompt there on how many days is conferences? So Dr. Tara Goddard Of what? I won’t say where you’re originally from, but you’re from Texas. An academic? And yeah, so tell us where are you originally from?
Tara Goddard 7:13
I’m originally from a small town in northern California, a rural ranching and logging town. And I lived in California most of my life until I went back to school and lived in Portland, Oregon, for six years, got my PhD and then got a job at Texas A&M University, which is in Central Texas, one of the largest universities in the country. Actually,
Carlton Reid 7:33
I know it’s Portland, Oregon, where really I know you from so I didn’t even know you have your backstory there. I just assumed you’re born in Oregon, okay. And also sitting next to me from Australia, in fact, or Belfast now is Irene McAleese. From See Sense? Or Lime Forge Limited?Whichever you prefer there.
Irene McAleese 7:55
Yeah. Hi. Hi. Hi, Carlton. Hi, Tara. Great to be here. Yeah, Limeforge limited, it’s actually a registered company name. But we go by See Sense now. So yeah, don’t confuse people.
Carlton Reid 8:08
I do apologise. That’s
Irene McAleese 8:10
okay. Yeah, actually, it’s a funny story. Because when you come up with a company name, you just think, what, what can we do and I think align with something fresh, and forge is about creating stuff. But then, of course, in the very early stages, we had the fortune to be put in front of a proper company who can come up with logos and brand names and things like that. And we they came up with See Sense and we we adopted it pretty soon afterwards, that have been so busy, we’ve never gone back to change the registered company name. So that’s why that’s how it came about.
Carlton Reid 8:42
So I’m linking you here because Limeforge, See Sense, as we should call it, of course, has some interesting tech on on keeping cyclists safe, and, Tara, if I come to you first, you’ve got some studies, recent studies. I mean, you’ve got lots of studies, but you’ve got some recent studies about the kind of the same thing about keeping cyclists safe and, and overtaking distances. So give me a brief overview of, of the studies you’ve done recently. Yeah, at your academic institution.
Tara Goddard 9:17
So the most recent study, and we wrapped up the data collection just a month or month and a half ago, is a driving simulator study. So we brought people in, and we had created four scenarios where they have to interact with a bicyclist and overtaking on a straight segment. And then in the US, we drive on the right, so there’s a potential for what we call the right hook crash. So the car is turning right and put the bicycle was going straight, a potential for what we call left hook. So the bicyclist is oncoming in the other direction. And the driver has to make a left turn, and then at a four way stop intersection. So we were interested in just seeing how people interact with bicycles in these very simple situations. But what’s unique is we also with those same people collected a lot of their attitudes about how strongly they identify as a driver, how they view their own driving skills, etc. And then how they feel about bicyclists. So do they feel that by specially registered and licenced, and you know, a lot of the kind of attitudes we hear, but then we also on top of that tested their implicit bias between drivers and bicyclists. So looking at these subconscious attitudes, which often predict how we behave in kind of high speed or high stress environments even better than our explicit. So we paired all those together, which gave us a bunch of really great data. And I’m happy to talk about specifically the overtaking is what we’ve we’ve just sent out a paper to accident analysis and prevention. So keep an eye out for that, and had some surprising results about how like attitudes predict close passing, and in ways that maybe, like, once we got into it kind of as a cyclist, anecdotally, it made sense, but I don’t think had really come out. We haven’t seen as much in the literature and and the the short answer being that we focus a lot on distance and close passes, which is important. But also speed is a huge thing. And we found that negative attitudes actually predicted higher speed of passing. So they might give people more room, but they’re passing faster. Which if you think about keeping taking your eyes off the road, or some kind of situation where it’s really the speed that can predict how quickly you drift and hit someone. So we’re not saying that these necessarily like one predicts an absolute crash. But there’s there’s a lot more pulling apart this issue of how to drivers know what a good close passes? How are they deciding it. And then his distance as important as a speed or acceleration or how quickly they cut back in front of a bicyclist which we also found was problematic people with negative attitudes cut back in faster, kind of cut bicyclists off. So it’s been really interesting to see all that play out in a driving simulator.
Carlton Reid 11:46
And now, Irene, the sensors in your lights and– you can take these sensors out can’t you and put them into like city bikes and this kind of stuff. So your sensors can detect some of these things that Tara is talking about. Specifically, you know, the bad road conditions, which was like the most wherever around. And then you were telling me that cyclists and then pinpoint where they’ve been close passed on an app. So tell me about that.
Irene McAleese 12:16
Okay, so. So. Just to step back to the sensors in our lights, actually scanning the environment around them 800 times a second, which creates some incredible richness in in the data in terms of granularity and really understanding the subtle kind of movements cyclists make. So I mean, obviously, the things like braking, but we’re also thinking about swerving, but even in braking, how fast do they have to brake and the acceleration and really, you know, that’s something that you don’t get through an app alone, because the sensors are dedicated, and they’re doing, they’re doing a different job related to sensors in a phone. So while we can not to take a close pass, so but we could see maybe a wobble, you know, the other the cyclist it in response to, you know, they’re feeling about a close past if that if bike wobbles, we would start to see those patterns on the road. And then what we’ve also done in retail version, as we add in our project version of the apps, where we’re working on a couple of big projects at the moment for Synchronicity, and Manchester, and web and Dublin is actually allow people to report in the app, their perception, or an incident on the ride. So at the end of their journey, notification will pop up come up in the app, is there anything what you want to tell us about the ride? If yes, they can drop a pin in the map. And then from a drop down box, select sort of close pass and pothole couple of other categories. And what this does is allows us to create, you know, a heat map show where all of these reports are made. And and we’ve had actually quite a significant interest from some of the police forces to know. Because at the moment, they think Well, how do we do enforcement about monitoring close passes? Where do we go? And where do we literally, practically set up our our kit to monitor this. And they don’t have any data to really help them know that a what roads a cyclist travelling on, and B which ones are cyclists telling us that they have concerns with. So our data can really, you know, be used in that way to help inform know where they can monitor the close past, which is quite exciting. And then over time, will bring those two data sets together in terms of the sensor data readings, the wobbles and the things that we’re picking up. And then the reports of the perception of the close pass. And that will help us to refine that algorithm over time. And as the dataset grows, we hope that we’ll be able to begin more predictive through that. So actually, rather than waiting for the person to enter into the app that they had an issue, the predictive element, because so we think you might have had a close pass, if you want to tell us a bit more about that.
Tara Goddard 15:11
It raises the possibility, I would think that it can inform like driver assistance systems like advanced driver system systems, where there’s a, you know, the computers that algorithms can start better understanding all these factors that go into the wobbles, and the diverting around pavement problems and things like that. Because that classic problem with overtaking of like, Oh, they just swerved out of nowhere. And you’re like, Well, no, there was actually a lot of precipitating factors that are bicyclists how to take the lane or sort of out. And so I think anything that we can do to help, it seems like those kind of sensors can can lead to, like you said, better predictive. Yeah, we can
build into say, for example, you know, the quality of the road surface, you know, if the road is actually quite rough and full of potholes in that area, how did that affect the experience of the cyclists having a close half, you know, where they much more likely to have a collision, or an accident resulting from that experience, for example. The other thing is, you know, with with the advent of autonomous cars, their their way out, but I think one of the challenges that they face is understanding the behaviour of cyclists. So they may have a good ability to detect a cyclist and see, you know, where there’s a cyclist with their LIDAR or the other kit. But actually, if there is a pothole there or something, how do they know how far a cyclist is going to beer out and try to come around that and manoeuvre through actually trying to get a bit of data to understand the experience of cyclists and those kind of patterns, maybe help to train some of those cars to react better to cyclists in the future?
Carlton Reid 16:50
On the autonomous cars and beacons front of buying companies are wanting to put beacons on bicycles on people even Is that something that you think should happen? In that it’s only going to be the beacon cyclists and effect it will be spotted by autonomous cars? So do you think autonomous cars should be allowed on the road, if they, they can’t really spot them and less cyclists have got, you know, some form of chip that’s telling them where they are and what they’re gonna be doing? No,
Irene McAleese 17:30
I don’t think it’s possible that you could actually put a chip on every cyclist in the world, and I don’t think you would really want to,
which is kind of like why I like the example, I gave you this before about maybe using some of these data insights from smaller, you know, from the train and be able to detect it in a different way. So you’re not actually putting the onus on the cyclist, to have anything on them to be detected as actually just data and insight that can help those cars in they are trying to do something? No, I don’t think that cyclists should be compelled to have a clear cut. A chip will be required to do that. Having said that, I know there’s a lot of move, there is a lot of interest in that. And it’s probably inevitable that some of that tech will start to hit spikes. And I think that it maybe will, there may be cyclists that choose to put it on their bikes going forward. In the same way, maybe people choose to have a helmet or something else, you know, that they feel gives them confidence. But I certainly wouldn’t say that you should be retrofitting it on all bikes or, you know, making it a requirement in any way.
Carlton Reid 18:40
Tara, same same question to you, but maybe come at it from an equity angle in that the kind of $2,000 and above cyclist is going to be rich enough to be able to fit these beacons and want to save themselves. But the you know, the in inverted commas, the invisible cyclists, so the Latinos in you know, big American cities have already been persecuted by the NYPD. Yeah, for just riding around on their delivery cycles. So these people are not going to be fitting chips, and then it comes down to will if you’re chipped you’re safe, if if you’re not chipped, you’re not saving them. And how fair is that? So So what is your view on beacons?
Tara Goddard 19:21
Right. So I think I mean, beacons in a lot of ways. And I think push the onus on the what essentially is the victim, right? Or are the people to keep themselves safe, even when it’s the other person, that driver who has the ability to do harm. And I think one of the things that I’ve heard a lot at this conference, even though there’s a lot of discussion, obviously, there’s a lot of electrified and highly technical bikes here, and a lot of discussion about the Internet of Things. There’s also been this repeated theme of like, the beauty of a bicycle is in its simplicity, the word analogue I like, that’s been used a few times this idea that it’s this, I mean, it hasn’t changed that much. And in the last, you know, whatever, 200 know, where we go 100 plus years. And that’s okay. And so I think, especially for these people that you’re talking about to just be able to pick up a simple bike that they can share amongst each other, or that’s been passed down, or that isn’t highly technical, and also isn’t a target for theft is, you know, very affordable. These are all things and reasons that like the beacon on the new bike, okay? That’s just not going to be achievable to them. But I also think the another thing that’s a downside of thing about these beacons is the turnover of the vehicle fleet to actually be able to pick up and just talk with those beacons is not going to happen. I mean, where I am in Texas, like, a lot of those vehicles aren’t going anywhere, anytime soon, we’re not going to wake up in six months, or a year or six years, probably, and suddenly have this like, huge, you know, autonomous fleet that’s just talking to the signals and talking to the other road users. So we’re killing, you know, 10s of thousands of people, you’re on the road roads now. And if we say, Oh, well, it’ll be great for safety in a decade, that’s hundreds of thousands of people that were killing along the way, and not making any safer.
Carlton Reid 21:10
Let me let me switch topics completely. And we’ll come back to Irene, and let’s talk about it because Tara mentioned that IoT, so that’s like a useful segue into your IoT project with with Vodafone, which has potential for increasing safety, because you’re collecting lots of real time data. So So tell us about this project.
Irene McAleese 21:33
Yeah, we’re really, really excited actually to, to launch this project here in Dublin. And it’s quite groundbreaking, because it’s about a different way to send data from from a bike. So at the moment, bike share schemes are sending data over a cellular network, which is actually quite power hungry. And so they can’t always send their location in real time without having a big drain on the back tree bike is stolen, after like 10 days or so it simply will not even be able to send its location anymore. And I, you know, I completely agree with Tara’s point about the simplicity of the bicycle, but I also kind of like, I also see that the cities now have so much data about other modes of transport, you know, real time data coming from cars, real time data, you know, from buses, and, and I see that as we move into this realm of, you know, redesigning our cities around smart cities of the future, we have to have the voice of the bicycle in there. And and I think that having better data around real time movement of lights in the city is going to elevate the bicycle in the discussions elevated in the planning and ensure that we don’t get planned out, you know, what happened many years ago. So it’s an opportunity to to allow us to bring the bring the discussion or the bicycle to the for integrated properly as part of an intermodal, you know, system for the city’s having real time data from cycling links it in better with mobility as a service, you know, opportunities, and also this intelligent transport system planning. So thinking about, you know, opportunities to make conditions benefit cyclists, at one end of the spectrum, looking at things like, you know, green wave, you know, allowing the timing of the lights to change to increase the flow for psychosis and better experience, right back through what we do with consensus, the core data and understanding, you know, what are the routes that cyclists are travelling on what routes they prefer to be on? And how can we redesign the network to support those desire lines and flows? And actually, then, you know, what are the conditions of some of those routes, you know, in terms of the road surface quality, the comfort of the cyclists, the safety of the cyclists, where the dwell times happening from the congestion point of view, collision, all of this data is so useful to be able to improve the experience and safety of the cyclists. And I think that if you can make the conditions better for cycling, you have to create a shift, you unlock some of the barriers, you know, that are preventing people from cycling, they’ve got the data to sort of actually advocate about where we need the bike lanes, where they need to be built, how the the evidence to show the baseline of before and after about how those lines that have been built, have actually increase the flow of people through a city, not just cars,
and also how they’ve
improved safety and experience that people, it just allows people to then advocate and do more of it. So I I’m excited about this new project, I mean, I’ve got we’ve got existing technology that where we send data from our bond clients over the buyer and app into the cloud. The new project that we’re doing here in with the phone and Dublin City Council is to, is to use this new Narrowband-IoT (NB-IoT) network, which I genuinely think is is groundbreaking, it’s specifically designed for devices to send data to a network in a low power way. It’s cheaper than sending it over and over cellular networks, it has better connection, it can actually send stuff through walls, it’s designed for parking metres and things like that. So it’s going to allow us to send data in real time, not just the GPS stuff. But all the rich see sets data that we have as well on the road to help the operators as well get data that they can use to manage theft, and vandalism, accurately locate their bikes manage the bike redistribution better, because I’ve got this real time data flow. And also do things like predictive maintenance, there’s, there’s a nice business model that we’re hoping to sort of shape up out of here where the data can be used to help these operators manage their fleet really efficiently in a city in a way that’s can be quite collaborative, but also allow these operators to share data with the city that goes beyond basic GPS really links, these modes of transport into the bigger ecosystem. So yeah, I think that the NB-IoT is going to be quite game changing. Because it just unlocks the ability for this data to be turned in real time and really powerful data. So we’re really excited to be at the forefront of that. We spent a year in r&d, working on this behind the scenes. So where the networks are now being switched on here in Dublin, up and down the coast in UK and going live in the rest of the world. So we’re really positioned well, the as these mark, as these networks being switched on, were ready to go live and hit the ground running have that first to market advantage. And then as other people may be tried to catch up, we’re still going to have the secret see sense stuff of all the road surface and everything else that we bring to the bring to the table. So yeah, exciting.
Tara Goddard 27:02
And I think, if I may, it’s so key what you’re saying, because, you know, I tell my students all the time, we treasure what we measure, right? There’s some variation of that. And and I think the problem with the data we’ve had on cyclists has been, it would no nuance right, we have counts. And then we have routes. And if you looked at the ride that I did yesterday, for example, coming back from St. Anne’s park to here and you just looked at the route, you’d be like, oh, there’s cycle track most of that, and that it must have been a perfectly good ride. But it was much of it was actually really poor. Because of the road surface of the weird turns you have to do, which you would catch, if you were looking at somebody’s wobble and or their their steering of their bicycling, you could get a sense of the noise that might be along the route because of some of the road surface and things like that. And then the connection problems. And so I think, you know, we’ve heard a lot about at this conference and elsewhere, there’s a lot of great research being done looking at how important cyclist comfort is to obtain and staying, you know, staying with it staying with cycling, and then how important noises, for example, to people’s comfort and perception of their safety on on the bicycle. And so I think it’s really going to be helpful to have this much more nuanced information about what it’s like so that we can not just say, Oh, we have the routes on the map, you know, wipe our hands like we’re done. It’s like, no, the quality of the route is so so important. And like I say all the time, like you’re only as your networks only as strong as your weakest link. And when a when a link is bad on a bicycle, it’s really bad, you’re either going way out of your way, or it’s really scary or sketchy, like we did down by the ports last night was literally one of the most dangerous manoeuvres I’ve ever done on a bicycle. And I’m a very confident street cyclist. And yet I was the heart was racing, things like that. So so I’m really looking forward to seeing more of that nuanced data that can help us understand the experience of the bicyclists who are kind of in the middle of that bell curve. They’re not the super hardcore, like Dubliners are the most brave bicyclists I’ve ever seen. And they’re also not you know that the people who are just like no way know how it’s all these people in the middle that are, you know, have, they’re much more sensitive, I think, to these nuances of the environment.
Carlton Reid 29:13
And I’m assuming, and you almost confirmed it there that you’re very excited to potentially get your hands on this kind of rich data. So I’m going back to Irene, and as where this data is gonna be available from so is this is this data for your clients only? Or is this going to be for cities only who’s gonna be able to get hold of this data?
Irene McAleese 29:33
Yeah. So we’re working for this new project, in Vodafone will be sharing the data with with Dublin City Council. So directly with the planners here, who are very excited to get hold of the data, they’re already using the census data as part of our synchronicity project. And so that will supplement that that in terms of like a business model going forward.
We need to, we hope that actually, it will kind of work that the we can kind of be funded by the operators of the bike share schemes who use, you know, they can help fund to get the devices on there. And they get a benefit out of having a better tracking of the bike and all of this and that can kind of as an offshoot of that we can we can work with the city’s with the data and give them access to what about academics? What about
Carlton Reid 30:33
what about academics getting access to this data?
Irene McAleese 30:36
I think I think they’re definitely open to that in a kind of a partnership way. So absolutely, we would love to have academics like yourself to get hold of it and, you know, helps us to build useful case studies about how that how the data is being applied and the uses for it. So yeah, absolutely. And I think,
Tara Goddard 30:52
too, you can really think of partnerships that that pair all this extensive data that you have with some of these more qualitative experiences, and really, you know, talking to users and understanding, particularly groups that maybe haven’t been represented before, or as much in kind of what we know about bicyclists and their needs are the people who are the most vocal already. I think there’s some really rich, mixed methods to be had there. And that, you know, certainly as an academic, we would love to partner on that type of thing.
Carlton Reid 31:21
Because you’re not the only academic working in this field. It’s now becoming a rich field. You’ve got Dr. Ian Walker. Yeah, you’ve got Rachel Aldred, who’s at the conference here
Tara Goddard 31:29
Dr. Jennifer Dill at Portland State.
Carlton Reid 31:30
And then Jennifer’s here as well, as I’ve seen it. So this is this is a an academic field. That’s that’s expanding? What what has been done with that academic information? Is there anything concrete being done to help cyclists? Or is this all just ivory tower stuff? And it’s just, it’s a bunch of academics, you know, benefiting from the research funding? But as poor cyclists, are, there aren’t actually any safer because of your work? Or are you going to tell me no, no, no, we’re, we’re, we’re making safety for every because of our work?
Tara Goddard 32:01
Well, certainly our goal as academics is to have it be very applied and useful to practitioners, a lot of us came from the world as practitioners. So as a bicycle pedestrian coordinator in Davis, California, before I went back to academia, so I think at the forefront of my mind is always not just asking questions and finding interesting answers, which I definitely geek out and love, but also making it useful. One of the challenges to that is still the way that the academic world functions, about journal articles, there’s a lot of pressure on us, and those are behind paywalls. And they’re not necessarily very useful. They A lot of times, like, Oh, I can find statistical significance. But is that really meaningful in the real world? So I think there’s some really fair criticisms, and I and other academics are really pushing, I think for valuation more in academia, have more policy briefs, and practice ready information and partnerships like that. I think anybody who’s in researching in these areas is very much interested in like it having real world effects. And certainly the more that we’re able to partner with, say, local governments, or private industry on things that are interesting, and we can bring, say, methodological tools and resources to play, and just good ways of asking questions, but then real world data and immediate real world implications. And, and that’s why I think, fellow city and other one other places like it are such a nice, you can really mix and we can be talking about what are the problems in the field that you need help solving? Guess what, we’re pretty good at figuring out the asked questions and, and get answers, hopefully. So I think it’s, it can be a fair criticism of the ivory tower. But I also think that all the folks I know really, really care about making actual people safe immediately if we can, or and certainly happier and more comfortable when they’re choosing to do these type of models.
Carlton Reid 33:51
And I know you’re jumping in there, but Irene, your your product is basically keeping people safe, in that it flashes like crazy. It’s very bright, your life product. But while you’re nodding where you live, do you want to jump in there with Tara?
Irene McAleese 34:04
Oh, I just wanted to kind of add actually, that, really, we’re really excited to formed a partnership with British Cycling, we’re sharing actually the data that we’re collecting from the lights with British Cycling, who wants to use the data for advocacy, British Cycling, have a have a relationship with 10 cities across the UK where they’re actively engaged in helping to increase the number of people cycling. So our partnership is very new. But as as our data is building, you’ll see more and more stuff coming out about this. where, you know, the hope is that we can we can use the data evidence to to sort of influence change. That’s already we’ve got quite a lot of data that’s been built up from customers who are just using our app to opt in, in a very transparent way, we want to obtain and share aggregated data insights that can be used by the city. And so I’m excited about this partnership to help bring about change, that’s what we want to see. Ultimately, we’re company of cyclists for cyclists. And we want to see, you know, we started off with a with a bike light that improves your visibility doesn’t very well as categorises, very say like visible reacts to environment, all that sort of stuff. But I’m so excited now to take it to the next level, about also how we create the infrastructure and the other policies that will will support safer and better cycling. And the British Cycling also linked in with a lot of academics as well. They’re working with some up some folks in the guys go University. And I think for that, so that so there’s a lot of opportunity for us to sort of push that out through their corporate partnerships with HSBC and other things like that. And we are in discussion as well with quite a few other advocacy organisations around the world now who’ve seen the partnership with British cycling, and it’s open their eyes up to this opportunity to use data from their membership to support advocacy movement. So we’re really excited about that.
Carlton Reid 36:03
America. What about what about America? You? Can Tara, get involved here?
Irene McAleese 36:11
In as in, in an advocacy
Carlton Reid 36:14
world getting getting the lights across there? Are there any projects across in America that are being you using your lights is similar to the ones in the
Irene McAleese 36:20
Yeah, so yeah, can help introduce us into the year. I mean, we sell Actually, we haven’t really tackled the US market in a really focused way. Because we’re we’re a small company and where our market is mostly UK, Ireland and actually into Europe, we’re getting a lot of interest in Europe, also Australia, I’m proud to say, the US we sell probably about 20% about like sales, I just came to the US at the moment and completely organically without us even driving that. So I’m just like, wow, once we got to, we got to mention in the New York Times, once nearly broke our website for the week. So I know the market is definitely there. And we’re also kind of in discussions actually with a big US distributor and some folks from there. But so I think we’ve definitely see the huge potential of the US market and we’re big appetite to engage with it. So with the right partners, that may be creating some nice case studies to show some stuff in the local area could be really compelling. And that might help us to unlock some stuff because you know, we obviously want to work at scale.
Carlton Reid 37:28
Well, I hope you two can exchange business cards, and that your technology and your your cleverness transfers across to to Texas and wherever you use it for Yeah, thank you very much.
Laura Laker 37:43
Okay, so just day three at velo-city in Dublin and I found women on wheels who do you want to tell me who you are and what women on wheels is?
And thank you for wearing our badge by the way, the Women on Wheels badge
I am wearing your badge, on my lanyard.
Yeah, we love it
I’m Aine Tubridy
I’m Giulia Grigoli
And and you are a part of women on wheels, which is,
yeah, so we’re a bunch of women who and there’s there are other women involved who just aren’t here at the moment. And men, we allowed a few men in, and but we looked around and wonder where all the women are in Dublin. and. The the figures for Dublin are quite low.
Yeah, so it’s what? 23%? 27%. Okay.
Yeah, that’s women who commute to work. Okay, so it’s not, that’s an aspect of the work is, you know, not having proper data, we, that’s not only commuters for paid employment, as I
Laura Laker 38.44
Oh I see. So. So that’s part of it census data that’s from census data. Yeah,
Yeah, from census data. We gathered the data from 1986 to 2016. And despite the trends of increasing and decreasing of cyclists are very similar pattern between men and women, that women representation has always been considerably lower.
Okay. So even though well, so Cycling is increased, but the proportion stayed the same between men and women.
In the boom time it went way down. I think everybody was like, let’s get cars. We’re rich now. And then as it as as we, as we moved into more of a recession, people started cycling.
And they say that recessions are good for cycling, right?
Yeah, but not good for women who cycle. So the number of women, the sort of the ratio of women who cycle didn’t rise in the same way.
And then just it’s worth mentioning, the number of, the ratio of teenage girls cycling as compared to teenage boys is dramatically lower. So we’d say, as you look into your 20s, their 20s, those teenage girls are perhaps even less likely to cycle. So maybe the the proportion of women who cycle will actually go down in 10 years from now. So it’s an urgent issue that we want to have addressed.
And so did you, was it your idea?
It kind of I don’t think it was like any one person’s idea but I do remember going to a meeting of the, in the cycling advocacy world and wondering where all the women are. I really did I just wondered, I just felt there was something really missing in the conversation and and so we’re very keen to look at representation as well and have more women talking about cycling and looking around about the city. And you you’re experiencing as I’m sure there’s quite a lot of men, there are a few MANILs, you know, male only panels
And so, so what so so what is women on wheels? So, yeah,
Giulia Grigoli 40.26
well, we started about a year ago and wanted to investigate. Well, we, we started with the scope of investigating whether street harrassment was a factor that influenced the low number of women cycling. And but then yeah, after we did the focus group, and we gathered more than 40 women around the tables to talk about their experience of cycling, where they cycle when they cycle, how did they feel about it? And we discovered that it is much more to that. So there are different barriers, perceived. And yeah. And so it’s very interesting what Louise was saying about the representation like the image of, like many women don’t do not really identify with the cyclist. Because I actually think that many people if they, they’ve been asked like, close your eyes and think about a cyclist in Dublin, I wouldn’t think about a woman, probably.
Yeah, so as Giulia said, in that listening group that we hosted, I think, around a year ago now or last autumn, we started off with this idea of street harassment being one of the prominent barriers to women’s cycling, as well as the lack of infrastructure and but from a listening session, we we did find that street harassment was an issue and that women do experience it regularly to varying degrees
on the bike?
On the bike yes on the bike. And yeah, from from different road users, pedestrians, kids, drivers,
Kids, that’s one of the things that we,
Oh I see.
Yeah. And being shouted at there’s this thing, they just like, make a loud noise.
Oh, just as you’re cycling past? Yeah, I’ve had that in London they’ll say bang or something or like, lunge at you, and think it’s really hilarious.
Yeah. And so that did arise, but it was one of lots of different issues, including, like how amazing cycling is and how much freedom and joy it gives people so we moved on from that listening session, and wanted a way to encompass all of those varied experiences, and identities and approaches to cycling. So it took us a while. But we settled on an approach that uses the Liberty Bell platform, which allows people to map their routes around the city. It’s usually used for transport planning, but we wanted it to be more qualitative. So we added this diary. Yeah, the diary tool. So for two weeks, we had, I think, 18 women tracking their movements and their experiences and feelings around cycling. And after that, we did interviews, but like our, our long interviews with the 18 them
we wanted to unpack all that internalised decision making and minimization of risk that we know happens, and we know the women are doing all the time. So we were very influenced by Fiona Vera-Gray, who wrote a book called the right amount of panic. And it made us think a lot about public space and gendered public space.
What is the right amount of panic?
Well, it’s that balance that we’re constantly calibrating as women as women. That you need to be a little bit concerned and a little bit afraid. But you also want to experience the joy and the freedom of cycling. Sorry, there goes my notes. But um, yeah, so it’s kind of it’s the right amount of panic being how to how to sort of balance and juggle all those risks that come from, as Aíne said, the infrastructure or the lack of infrastructure, which is very important. Add on to that the gendered harassment and the risk of it. So we’re not what we’ve started to do was trying to look at how women calibrate that risk and minimise that risk, rather than saying, counting the number of incidents of harassment.
So we really wanted to understand what are the safety strategies that women put in place when deciding where to go, when to go, but anything that influence even their decision to decide whether to cycle or not, yeah, the time of the day, but also very interestingly, I think, came up that cycling itself, and can be a safety strategy in the sense that some women wouldn’t feel safe, let’s say to walk at nighttime in certain places, but it would feel really okay to cycle in places instead. And I think this is very important, because if cycling makes women feel safe than that we need to make cycling safe for them. And for everybody.
Aíne Tubridy 45.23
Yeah, yeah. So a feature of Fiona Vera-Gray’s work as well, which influences as what Giulia was saying was this concept of safety work. So it’s this idea that we’re constantly working to be safe, we’re constantly thinking of it. Like as Louise said, it’s on our minds all the time, and we’re aiming towards it. So it wouldn’t really have been useful to try and qualitatively count episodes, or incidences, it was really, about how women strategize in ingenious ways to keep themselves safe around the city. So it was things like negotiating rules of the road, which aren’t suitable for cyclists, making the oftentimes very uncomfortable choice to break, say, red lights or to go on the pavement, and having to deal with being judged as a ‘bad cyclist’ as a ‘bad woman’ on the road. But having to make that choice, because it’s the safer thing to do. And we did find that women are really conscious of appearing to be respectable on the road, things like wearing a helmet for other people to maintain your image as a good cyclist.
I saw this because there was an article, you’ve had quite a lot of coverage on this, and it was an article. And this was mentioned the fact that women are wearing helmets, for other people, which I just found astonishing.
I think a lot of these things, the team, the women on wheels team, like, we didn’t really find it that surprising, because it’s our experiences as well, we came to this with wanting to explore what we already intrinsically know, and experience every day and share that with other a wider group of women
It definitely made us more aware of our experience of cyclists as well.
You don’t think about a lot of the things that you do that it’s so unconscious, it’s like you’re saying, and until you actually sit down and think about it and unpack it. It’s really fascinating, actually, isn’t it?
I think in this intersection between cycling and gender, and the blame culture that goes in both that is common to both. And think about that intersecting in our experiences, women who cycle and the burden that we’re being made to bear. Because the cycle lanes are being designed in as much as you can talk about cycle lanes being designed in Dublin at all, there is no plan as we know. But like, there’s an assumption that men and women will use whatever facilities are available in the same way. So it’s, but we would argue that it’s male by default, and that there isn’t nearly enough thinking and study about what women’s experience is and how women have the right and equal access to cycle safely in the public space of Dublin and anywhere else for anybody listening.
Yeah, and research has shown that women are less likely to put up with conditions that feel dangerous and more likely to need safe cycling infrastructure in order to get on bikes at night.
So what we would say in response to that is to change the infrastructure rather than change women’s perception of safety, because it is a rational, normal, good thing to not want to go out on the road.
And it really is it really is. Because if you think about I say this to people, when they tell me they are too afraid to cycle on London’s roads, for example, and I just say, well, that’s a normal response. Because there’s a very small percentage of people who actually do and we’re the ones willing to take that risk. But it’s it’s totally normal. You look out there. You see the lorries in the bike lanes and, and yeah, why would you cycle?
Giulia Grigoli 49.05
especially if you have a child to carry to school, or other other activities that don’t necessarily involve going as fast as you can to work but involves maybe doing grocery shopping like I do it as well on my bicycle isn’t is really like if the surface is not good? Like can be very hard and wobbly with all the bags.
Yeah, no, it’s true. It’s true. And women can benefit more from cycling. Because it’s a short journey. It’s often the short journeys that tend to be women’s kind of childcare, and shopping and stuff, which do tend to fall on women.
And there seems to be in Dublin City Council, like it’s, you know, you know, Dublin now you’ve cycled around as you’re aware of kind of the the sort of the fragmented nature of the facilities. And but I think I do want to
Yeah, so Aíne has to go
Sorry I have to run off
Sorry to see you go. But
So I think it’s brilliant that the city council has some ambition for some major projects. Now, as you might know, like we have, there’s a Liffey cycle route, which has been planned for seven years of various levels of consultation, and hasn’t yet been successful although there seemed to be the seems to be a bit more of a commitment. But I think from a women on wheels perspective, what we want, kind of picking up on your point about the trip chains, so this idea that women will go on short routes, and they will do a series of stop offs, we also really need as a matter of urgency to be able to advocate for a greater focus on the inter community routes. So it would be routes in between neighbourhood communities, or within those communities, so that women and children will feel safe, and will judge it to be safe for them to go out and have active lifestyles, and the kids can learn the independence that they want to learn about. And one of the participants in our research has always said that, for her kids to learn to be independent was one of the most important things. So she has to make an incredibly complex range of decisions every day in order for them to be able to experience that. But all kids should be experiencing that, like that’s essential for growing up.
Yeah. And yet a lot of the cycle rates are the ones that are going to get high volumes of people. It’s usually the commuters into the city centre, which are those linear fast routes which aren’t going to serve or be attractive to people with children, women.
Yeah. Yeah, definitely. So basically, the aim of our research was really to listen to these voices and to understand that there are different needs and different perception of safety out there. So yeah, we really need to change the paradigm of how we think about cycling and the provision of services that that should be promoting equality.
yeah, and representation really matters. So that’s one aspect of what we want. So we want more work and representations of women. So it’s not as as Giulia said, you know, think of a male cyclist. Think of a cyclist, you think of a man automatically. And that would be applicable, I think, to men and women, and periods and pregnancy also came up. It’s worth mentioning that sometimes women said, when I have my period, I don’t feel like cycling, and pregnancy, there’s obviously your body’s changing quite dramatically. And you know, women will be perfectly healthy, and able to keep cycling, but you may make need to make adjustments with your centre of gravity shifting. One of the researchers actually with women on wheels, she actually cycled herself to hospital to give birth. But she always says, Oh, it was a scheduled cesarean as if like, it’s no big deal. She was nine months pregnant, like, but it just goes to show, you know, that this can be done, you know, and we there are so many ways that women can benefit from cycling, I think, like I think it’s a really. It’s kind of a critical point right now, though, I feel. I feel that cycling is becoming an issue that is being discussed a lot. And I think it’s an issue that is becoming maybe I don’t think it’s becoming mainstream. I don’t know if it even should become mainstream. But I think it’s an issue that is really coming to the fore. And we’re talking about climate change and how to mitigate climate change, etc. And I think this is really an absolutely critical point for us to start having our voices heard as women and to start having gender disaggregated data. So looking at the patterns of cycling around cities, and really understanding on a deep level that women’s patterns are likely to be different. and obviously, men who are who are looking after the kids, they will have a different pattern as well. But we need to urgently now, while there are ambitious projects and funding going into cycling, we really need now to start counting how and measuring how women do cycle and want to cycle because so many women say to us, I’d love to cycle but I’m just not sure about the helmet, the intersections and and that’s quite a natural response and in rational response in Dublin. So like, we really feel that this is an urgent moment, especially like that’s just Dublin, if you look at the number of teen teenage girls cycling, I’m sure well, there’s a good chance in other English speaking countries, for example, that teenage girls are having the same reaction. So we need to, like I think we would like as women or girls, we would like to network more with women internationally with women around Ireland, and really try and kind of see if there’s options for coalitions or for raising our voice and for solidarity. And to really make this make a difference now, because looking around this conference centre, women’s voices aren’t being heard, there are quite a few talks, and we’ve presented our research here, and there are quite a few talks about gender, but we need to be really influencing at a high level. That means also budget allocation, it means collection of data, it means decision making, it means being around the table when the big decisions are being made. And this this has to happen, like otherwise things are going to get much worse.
It’s creating. I mean, we have unequal cities, don’t we effectively? And that’s a huge issue.
So the same, we should have the same rights to access spaces because yeah, the bicycle, it’s such a convenient and easy way of getting around. And also it gives access to workplaces to to education. So definitely, yeah, we should have the same rights to have accessibility
and public sector. So in Ireland, we call it the public sector duty, which is the duty of public services to not discrimination to have equality at their heart. They’re not doing us a favour. It’s this is a rights based issue.
And it’s the same in a lot of countries, there is legislation, of course, to not discriminate.
Louise Williams 54.57
And and so we need to really challenge the paradigms, we really need to challenge the assumptions and the bias that is so built in, especially I think in the cycling sector, which kind of sees itself as being perhaps somewhat left leaning and perhaps a little bit kind of gender aware, and may not actually be aware of how deep that bias can be. Because people who have been in positions of power for you know, and and decision making positions and doing great work, I’m not knocking the work they’re doing, but I don’t think they are fully understanding the needs, didn’t the need to make this radical paradigm shift now.
Yeah, and a lot of these it’s unconscious, like the these decisions women are making,
like, for example, the expectation a lower level of activity from women like already, or even the clothing, it’s a theme that came up a lot like some women would consciously decided to drop their femininity and be more sportive on the bike. Also, for practical reason, but then this means that they would only cycle to work it if they were provided with the right facilities to then change and get on their professional image instead, while for some guys, this is maybe not really an issue, because maybe there are less expectation of how they should appear in the workplace as well.
That’s a really interesting point,
I think there’s one more point at which like they where women on wheels, and that’s really we really want to talk about women on wheels, but like cycling needs to be safe and accessible for regardless of your age. So this this, we should be also advocating, obviously on people who, elderly people who want to cycle and who you know, would benefit from, and I was actually the gang of the bee bandits yesterday, who are a bunch of women and one man who are a gang of cyclists. I don’t exactly know their ages, but they’re not young. And that’s a gang of people who are embracing cycling, and they’re a little bit older, but they should have, yeah, they’re just the best fun I had the best time at the parade yesterday. But it’s also about mobility challenges, you know, any ability should be we should be creating public space where they can access it. in Dublin, you’ll see cyclists dismount signs around when our public works going on. If your ability is challenged, but you can still cycle you won’t be able to necessarily dismount. Yeah, so there’s a there’s a discrimination there as well. So just, I mean, it’s not the core point of what Women on Wheels is doing. But we absolutely believe that the intersection of ethnicity, ability, age is very important to highlight.
And within the women and wheels group you’ve got quite a… How did you get together in the first place?
Well, we’re all volunteers of the Dublin cycling campaign. Part of the policy group is one
so you all have different backgrounds.
Giulia Grigoli 57.33
I’m a transport planner Yeah. And working for SYSTRAN limited.
Tell people who might not know what that is
Yes, SYSTRA is a transport consultancy. We are, we have a worldwide well it’s a global group. And yeah, we do transport engineering, transport planning. And, yeah. Our clients will be the local authorities, but also so we will do planning development. But also, strategic modelling for the National Transport Authority. So we are very much involved in a sustainable transport, public transport especially, here in Ireland we would help a lot with public transport project. But yeah, definitely a focus on on cycling.
So you’re, you’re working on this every day?
And do you find that the people in the industry are aware of these issues?
Well, again, Women’s representation in the engineering and transport planning industry is also lower. So hence, some in I guess, some people will be more aware of this issue. But they are a bit neglected in the industry as well. So that’s why it’s, it’s important to have more women in the discussion and more women in these roles. So then, when we plan a new housing estate, for example, as well, then we can take in consideration and we obviously do our mobility management plans, traffic impact assessment, and we need to make sure that when we do this, we take into account of gender, to know who is going to access these facilities and where they have to go. And yeah, so definitely the discussion about gender and safety is really worthwhile. And an important when we do transport planning definitely.
I think Women on Wheels has a little bit of magic to it, because it’s interdisciplinary, you know, do you know we’re quite passionate as I think it’s probably, hopefully come across?
Yeah, it’s brilliant.
Yeah. But I think it’s a little bit of magic, when you bring people together, like Giulia is the transport planner, we have Aíne’s in social science, Janet is policy development, Conor [Cahill] has a technological background, we’ve also had input from Brian and Michelle, and quite a few other people.
What about you?
So I’m a journalist and a writer. So that’s my background. And actually, I mean, I’ve worked in development as well. So I worked in Congo, places like that. So I would have worked on gender policy in a conflict environment. So I actually do some advice on peace and security, internationally, when it comes to gender. And it’s funny, then. I actually see an absolute correlation and a kind of a parallel, not that I’m saying Dublin streets are like, you know, the UN peacekeeping troops have to move in, not yet, not quite. But it’s funny the way for me, it’s very natural kind of move between the two. But actually, when I, when I talked to people in the international development sector, they just glaze over when I talk about cycling, but I’d love cycling to be actually much more of a kind of a, you know, a thread that would be logical within these different sectors.
Laura Laker 1:00:57
What are the parallels?
Well, I think one of the first parallels like the first and I think the point of departure is, as you’ve heard from Women on Wheels is listen to women, start with women’s lived experiences. That’s that has to be your starting point. And once you build that in, in a, in a way, where you’re listening to women of different ages, different experiences, cycling, or whatever their experience is, and once that is your starting point, and you really build it in an inclusive way. So you have ethnicity represented as well, and hopefully ability as well. Then, if you build on that conversation, and that dialogue, and you keep on referring back to those women and people and kind of using them to validate what you’re doing, you’re going to get it right, and you’re going to build something sustainable. And that’s what like sustainable peace and sustainable transport solutions. I would say there are some parallels there. So sustainable peace. I know from living in eastern Congo, where you know, women have borne the brunt of a lot of the conflict, that if that women are constantly being excluded from the peace negotiations, and constantly having to ask for a place at the table, do you hear any parallels? And that’s not right. And and all the international research shows that if you if women are involved in peace negotiations, so it’s UN Security Council, resolution 1325. If women are involved, the peace, the actual peace agreement will last better. it’ll it’ll be late last longer, it will be better, and it will build better equality into the society on which it’s based. And I would say the same thing here. We believe that Cycling is an equality issue. And that your building inequality into the transport system, by not consulting with women. There, I think I might have made some parallels. I hadn’t actually thought about it until you asked.
It’s so interesting. It really is. And yeah, it’s fascinating. What do you think Giulia about that?
Yeah, yeah, no, absolutely. Like, being women like, yeah, we we do experience ourselves sometimes. Yeah. Our voices are not heard in.
And it is getting better. And within campaigning now cycle campaign, and for example, you see more women and within conferences like this, there seem to be more women.
Yeah, definitely. And that’s why I actually one of our recommendation, in order to raise female representation is actually to, to connect with other groups who are working on the same subjects, internationally and probably building like, a subgroup of the campaign, maybe that looks into the league looks into this specific issue. Yeah, that’s right to influence. Yeah.
Wouldn’t it be great to have a kind of international forum of women in sort of sustainable transport? Absolutely.
You might have to set it up. You can write your favourite podcast big. No, absolutely. And maybe maybe we need to set up a forum, maybe cycling, maybe sustainable transport. There are academics working on gender and transport at tap into those networks, but also help them to speak to each other. I think we need to network we need to listen to each other. But we need to build that kind of like for this whole kind of issue to be sustainable. I think we really need to work in Coalitions and solidarity, because we are like, I think as women, we’re quite kind of generally quite good at doing that. But we really, we really, like women on wheels. Dublin’s cycling sector is tiny compared to the US, compared to Australia, but if we can contribute to a greater conversation, and proper influence and impact, on a rights based approach as well. And we don’t think it’s enough to just talk we want action based on rights as well.
Yeah, what kind of action? What are you thinking?
It has to be it has to be, you know, I would I mean, you could look at quotas, you know, at conferences like this, you could start to look at quotas and representation in the European Cyclist Federation, for example, who have said that they want to put gender, give gender a more stronger role within their organisation, and quotas, you know, have been controversial, but they’ve also been shown to have an impact. And, and then if you look at policies, like the thing about gender is that, and this would work in the international sector, as well. So it would work in a place like Congo as well as a place like Dublin, is that if you want to really make a transformative, go through a transformative process, with an organisation, particularly where there are power, you know, power sort of interests embedded, it’s very important to have a kind of a monitoring body. So it means like a body where you’ll have gender experts who are watching what’s going on. And then also think about how it’s going to be implemented within all the activities of the group. So you need to kind of have a monitoring body, which has gender at its heart, and to look at how gender is, is, is kind of, in Yeah, folded into all your activities. So yeah, there were there were there. This has been done before in lots of other sectors where there was a gender imbalance. It’s not rocket science we can do it
which sectors can we learn from?
What a political representation like, you know, if you look at the political life, you know, and discrimination that has been embedded within political life in Ireland, for example, in terms of political representation, there’s been quite a lot of work on quotas, it hasn’t been without controversy, but it does seem to be having some impact, it takes a while. And you don’t need to rush these things necessarily. But you need to be embedded, you know, it’s a, it’s a fine balance. So it needs a lot of conversations behind the scenes.
Yeah. And, Giulia, you’re saying in science as well?
Yeah. In fact, I know, here in Ireland during this STEM project, like there are a lot of talks, like, I worked in different consultancies, and many of them will be involved in going to schools and talk about being an engineer and just to have more teenage girls of thinking about a career in engineering in science
And maybe support journalist like yourself, you know, if you, if you were to call us up and say, I want a comment on such and such about Dublin cycling or Irish cycling conditions really make sure that that you we get you have an opportunity to talk to women because often as, I’m a journalist as well, often we’re under a little bit of a rush, but really, you know, the representation is going to matter as well. Because once it becomes normalised that will be women speaking on behalf of all of cyclists, you’ll start to see a change. So it’s, it has to work at different levels, it’s complicated. But we you know, the more Yeah, the more like women on wheels is brilliant, but we also are pushing quite hard in it and Dublin campaign are really supporting us to become also the main spokespeople for Dublin Cycling campaign, not the main, but you know, one of the main spokespeople
One of the great things about that is that, you know, you were talking about you close your eyes and think of a cyclist, it’s a man and often there’s so there’s kind of people associate certain things with that they associate maybe aggression, they associated, this is a narrow type of person who is a cyclist. We know why should we build infrastructure for that person is not not they’re not thinking about the sort of wider society, other people who could benefit from cycling infrastructure, so
yeah, yeah, exactly. It’s really a matter of representation. Like because often people think of the cyclist, that persona, that that guy, young guy in lycra zipping around the traffic and yeah, fighting for space around buses.
And also doesn’t make it appealing to other women, if that’s what you see on the street.
Yeah, exactly. So we really need, maybe also for the campaign to be the role models for women and maybe even a companion in the path of uptake in cycling, because I have many friends and colleagues and people talking to me, yeah, I would cycle but I feel afraid or and there is some time a sense of vulnerability. And and yeah, so obviously, we are, we are advocating for infrastructure that are that are more gender neutral. So then they are appealing to both women and men. But I think what is very interesting, what came up that an opportunity for a support network for women who actually don’t cycle now, but they will be happy to if they had a buddy or someone supporting them, at the beginning may be cycling like there is this a bike angel that I really like? And it was I think it’s something in Brazil. So it’s basically somehow teaching how to navigate the space, especially for immigrants for women who are not Dubliners and people whoever may be haven’t cycled in years just because maybe they had an accident when they were a teenager and they just stopped doing it. And they had some sort of incident. So it’s, I think it’s good also to work in towards building really a community of, of cycling and of women’s cycling.
Yeah, that can really help can’t it, a female friend at University got me into cycling by basically showing me the route. And this is what the bike angels doing kind of showing people routes, giving them support advice and
Exactly on the how to navigate the space. Maybe for more experienced cyclists. Because so when we when we learn the rules of the road, let’s say we always learn from the perspective of a car driver, but cyclists do own the space too it’s our space. I attended a lecture Yes, it was very interesting, say Public, traffic space is public space. So they are and there is always an assumption that the lane it’s for the cars only, and that’s, that’s absolutely not true. And, and many people and you hear a lot about oh, cyclists, even when they’re in the cycle lane, they don’t stick to it. But no, if the, especially when the cycling, it’s packed with cars, or, you know, you need to take your space and, and sometimes it’s just that, that feeling of having to take it that it’s intimidating. But once you learn it, then you can pass it to others, I think
not to have to feel like you need to get out of the way of other road users,
We’re so kind of used to in a way. It’s ridiculous that we’ve minimised ourselves. I think Giulia said, like, I think that idea that, you know, cycling can be like a solution to you know, at nighttime, some women would actually see it as a solution to perceived or real risk. I think. For me, there’s something about cycling that is also on women is also quite deep, you know, the suffragettes use the bike as a tool of emancipation and as a kind of a symbol of how we can be independent, we don’t need to call anybody up, we don’t need, for a lift, we don’t need to wait for the bus to come along. So the bike can do something really deep for us. And it still can today. And I think so there’s this quote from Susan Anthony. ‘I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world’. And it could be doing that here, it could be freeing up women to get around to go to college, to pick up the kids to go to work to do whatever they need to do without having to wait for public transport to come on, to calculate if the bus stop is going to be in a dark place. And if they should stay a bit longer on the bus to the next up just because they don’t want to get over that stuff. So it could still be a tool for us to fulfil our potential. And we have the right for it to be that way. So hopefully, like we can really change the paradigms. But it’s funny isn’t it, do you know what I mean about this kind of deep sort of connection that a woman can have with a bike?
Yeah, it’s so freeing, and it’s wonderful. And I think so many people feel this, when they take up cycling, they get this, this just wonderful sense of being in the moment, being free being just you can go where you want when you want, especially in a city like Dublin, which is so congested, and traffic speeds are among the lowest in Europe. And you really are sort of at the mercy of how, of so many other factors if you’re in a vehicle. But if you’re in a bike, then it’s just so much more agile.
Yeah, exactly. And this I really relate to all this concept of independence, because I do cycle everywhere. And I am, because this is what makes me feel really independent. And so yeah, don’t have to know that if I have to be somewhere in 30 minutes, I’d be there in 30 minutes. I know that if I want to leave earlier from a party, whatever I go, and then just rely on myself and yeah, it’s really, actually and I have my flatmate who arrived in Dublin only a few months ago. She’s also Italian. It’s amazing to see just to reconnect about the joy of cycling, that we talked about before, which is one of our main findings, because lots of the women we interview like, they were all really talking positively about cycling despite the the conditioning in Dublin are not the best. And she also was not really into cycling, when she was in Italy, she was feeling maybe a bit clumsy about it. And now Now she started doing it. And partly because of well, this is also kind of marking her life changer, of coming here on her own, and being really completely free not living with her family. And now she really signed off on this sense of freedom and independence that she got by, got her bike very recently. And, and she told me, I wouldn’t consider I wouldn’t ever consider cycling before. And now, I just wouldn’t go anywhere without my bike. And I think this is really
Laura Laker 1:14:02
such a wonderful story. And I think that’s I don’t know, if we, if that’s a nice place to leave it.
Yeah, I think it’s lovely. I think it’s a gorgeous story. I love this. The other quote, I think that you That was the key message from our participants, which I think is it was also one that you identified Giulia, which I love is nobody’s going to take my safety away. And I think it’s
I refuse to not feel safe.
Yeah. And that’s us, that’s Women on Wheels
Laura Laker 1:14:28
Wonderful. Thank you so much, Louise and Giulia, and thank you for Aina for being with us while she could and yes and all the best for the ongoing projects and hopefully we will see this international forum of Women on Wheels. Yes. Thank you.
This podcast series is sponsored by the Dutch Cycling Embassy a public private network for sustainable bicycle inclusive mobility. To learn more about their global mission of cycling for everyone, visit their website at Dutchcycling.nl and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.